Tips on What to Wear for Your Head Shot

Here are some tips to prepare for your photo session. Regardless of what you read in the following suggestions, be comfortable.


Bryan HansenBryan HansenPresident and Chief Nuclear Officer, Exelon Nuclear

  • Get a good night's sleep the day before your session, drink plenty of water, and avoid salty foods and alcohol.  This helps reduce dark circles under your eyes.
  • Mid- to late-morning are ideal times to schedule your session--you'll feel more energized and typically have fewer things on your mind.
  • If your session is late in the day or in the evening, take time to freshen up your appearance. 
  • Wear clothing that fits well--not too tight and not too loose.  Bring clothes that are fresh and wrinkle-free. Long-sleeved clothing that creates a v-neckline (like a jacket with shirt underneath) looks flattering in pictures.  Turtlenecks should be avoided.
  • Keep your accessories simple. Neckties, scarves, and jewelry should not draw attention away from your face. 
  • Solids in darker colors (blue, gray) and mid-tones photograph well on most people. Busy patterns tend to distract people, so try to avoid them. I use a white or medium gray background since they work well with nearly any color clothing.
  • Unless you plan to update your portrait annually, stay away from trendy looks or anything that will appear dated in a few years


  • Choose colors that complement your hair as well as your complexion. Not sure? Look at some of your past photos or ask some trusted friends Christy NolandChristy Noland
  • You can't go wrong with a well-fitting black blazer that accentuates your body shape with simple black trousers and a light colored blouse. You can also remove the blazer to get two great looks out of one. 
  • Use layers in moderation to add interest to your head shots without using patterns or big jewelry.
  • Long sleeves are best. Short sleeves add skin at the edge of a headshot, which creates a distraction.
  • Avoid translucent clothing - the bright strobe lights will highlight everything.
  • Choose the right undergarments. Check to be sure your bra is not visible and doesn't cause bumps under your top 
  • Start with a neutral or solid color like cream, black, or navy blue. If we are doing black and white photos, wear clothes with clear color contrast, like a black or navy blazer with a white shirt
  • If we're doing an outdoor photo, use deeper colors instead of pale light colors to avoid looking washed out in the bright light of day
  • If you have a little extra time and money, have your hair arranged by a professional on the day of your session.
  • If you plan to get your hair cut or colored for your headshot, don't do it too close to your session. Give yourself a few days in case you aren't happy with a new look
  • Opt for a hairstyle that you would likely wear to work.
  • Hairspray is your friend - bring your favorite so you can deal with fly-aways before the session.
  • Your makeup should make you feel comfortable and confident, like you do at work. If you don't generally wear red lipstick, this is not the time to do it. Keep your makeup as natural as possible.
  • Highlighter can make your face look shiny so it's best to avoid it on the day of your session.
  • Go easy on the powder. I have a high-resolution camera that will emphasize the details of your skin and too much powder can make an unflattering photo.
  • Drink enough water in the week leading up to your session to keep your skin looking supple and healthy. If you go for a facial, schedule it a few days before your session, as this is not the time to try any new peels.
  • Unfortunately, facial hair can stand out in a headshot so consider a wax a few days before your session. Do not wax the day before because you could still be red.



  • Wear solid colors. If you wear a white shirt, consider wearing something over it. The white will reflect a lot of light and may make you look washed out.
  • For a casual alternative, consider a light khaki blazer over a dark colored shirt. A short bomber-style jacket over a medium gray shirt can be a great look, too.
  • Keep your accessories simple, with maybe just a wrist watch
  • Make sure your clothes fit you well.
    Baggy, loose clothing looks unprofessional. If you plan to wear something new, be sure you try it on a few days before
    your session so you can adjust if it Michael VolpeMichael VolpeExecutive Director, School Association for Special Education (SASED)
    doesn't fit well.
  • Undershirts are not recommended because they tend to show up in photos and create a distraction, either with bumps or shadows. 
  • Try to get your hair cut a few days before your session to be sure the lines look natural and give you a chance to recover if something goes wrong.
  • If you shave your head every few days, shave it a day or two before your session for a better photo.
  • Whether you shave your face clean or tidy up your facial hair, use the right saving cream and moisturize. You want to avoid razor burn.
  • Don't forget to trim any nose and ear hair before your session
  • Avoid the sun the week before your session or be sure to use sunscreen so you don't have a sunburn.